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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Bernanke’s farewell, Obama’s retirement plan, Facebook’s results, dictators’ flagpoles

What to watch for today

Ben Bernanke’s last taper. At the Fed chairman’s last policy meeting, the US central bank is expected to reduce bond-buying by another $10 billion per month, disregarding weak jobs December growth (which economists think was an anomaly) and emerging-market turmoil.

Facebook tries to hush the haters. The company is expected to post a whopping 65% jump in fourth quarter profits on revenue of $2.34 billion, thanks to a boost in advertising over the holidays, even as a string of reports suggest the social media site is becoming less popular.

Will South Africa act to save the rand? With the currency trading at five-year lows, the central bank is under pressure to follow India and Turkey in raising interest rates. Investors often treat the rand as a proxy for emerging-market currencies,

While you were sleeping

Emerging markets rebounded on Turkey’s bold move. Asian and European stocks surged after Turkey more than doubled interest rates, stemming the three-day stampede out of developing economies.

Obama’s state of the union speech. The US president introduced plans to boost the minimum wage and create retirement accounts that draw on behavioral economics, and touted foreign investors’ confidence in the US economy, which has surpassed China for the first time in more than a decade.

Chinese citizens barred from Virgin Galactic. US national security rules mean that even the wealthiest Chinese passport holders won’t be able to join Richard Branson’s inaugural sub-orbital flight (paywall), scheduled for later this year.

South Korea’s industrial output rose, up 3.4% in December (paywall), and its current account surplus doubled to a record high due to higher levels of exports.

Deutsche Bank pay cuts. Employees at its troubled investment bank received 23% less compensation in the fourth quarter.

Air traffic controllers on strike across Europe. Airlines including Lufthansa and Ryanair were forced to cancel flights as a two-day walkout got underway.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how fish oil fashion is sending rare sharks to their death. “Today’s bloodbath bulletin concerns whale sharks, which feed on plankton and can grow up to 40 feet (12 meters)—about the length of four station wagons. The sharks are so vulnerable to extinction that most countries forbid fishermen from catching them. That’s not stopping a factory in China’s Zhejiang province from slaughtering 600 whale sharks per year.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

America’s “industrial renaissance” is a farce. It’s a trickle of jobs at poverty-level wages that are heavily dependent on huge public subsidies, says former Obama auto advisor Steven Rattner.

The sun is setting on the iPod. Streaming services—as well as the ever-growing spread of iPhones—are killing Apple’s original music player.

Hamid Karzai is playing a dangerous game. The Afghan president’s digs at the West won’t protect him from a resurgent Taliban when the US pulls out.

War photography has been turned on its head. What used to be a tool to expose cruelty has become a way for perpetrators to document and brag about their violence.

Dungeons & Dragons as management training. Kids who learn to organize a band of elves, wizards and warriors have all the tools to manage a workplace team.

Surprising discoveries

Fulfill your Scrooge McDuck dreams. A bank vault filled with 15 tons (13.6 tonnes) of coins is up for auction.

Antarctica was perhaps once a forest. Ancient tree stumps have been discovered buried in ice a mile deep.

Chocolate is so hot right now. And so is hot sauce

Erecting flagpoles for dictators. Trident Support Corporation builds the world’s tallest—like the 541 ft (165 m) record-holder in Dunshabe, Tajikistan—for authoritarian rulers around the world.

Germany will win the most medals at the Winter Olympics. So says a prediction based on a little simple math.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, flagpole records, and Antarctic tree fossils to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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